Israel Defense Force (IDF)

Israel ‘well-prepared’ for any spill-over from attack on Saudi oil plant, PM says

Israel is prepared for the possibility it might be drawn into any U.S.-Iranian confrontation over a strike on a Saudi oil plant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

“I am taking care of our security on a 360 degree basis, and I can tell you that we are well-prepared,” Netanyahu, who hopes for reelection in a national vote on Tuesday, told Army Radio when asked whether Iran might try to provoke Israel.

The White House has pointed the finger at the Islamic Republic for a devastating weekend drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure that was claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen.

The attack, which halved the kingdom’s oil production and sent crude prices spiking, led President Donald Trump to authorize the release of U.S. strategic reserves should they be necessary to stabilize markets.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that the attack was “unprecedented” and the United States, along with its allies, was working to defend the “international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran.”

Esper said on Twitter he had returned to the Pentagon after a meeting at the White House, where Defense Department leadership and others briefed President Donald Trump on the situation.

Esper added that over the weekend he spoke with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the Iraqi minister of defense.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia was ready to help Saudi Arabia following the attacks on its oil industry.

Speaking after talks with leaders of Turkey and Iran in Ankara, Putin suggested Russian weapons for purchase.

“We are ready to provide respective assistance to Saudi Arabia, and it would be enough for the political leadership of Saudi Arabia to make a wise government decision – as the leaders of Iran did in their time by purchasing S-300 and as (Turkish) President (Tayyip) Erdogan did by purchasing the latest S-400 ‘Triumph’ air defence systems from Russia,” Putin said.

These Russian weapons would protect any infrastructure facilities of Saudi Arabia, he added.

Trump said Sunday the U.S. had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier also blamed on Iran, and said his government was waiting to consult with the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The president’s comments followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House and came hours after U.S. officials offered what they said was proof that the attack was inconsistent with claims of responsibility by the Houthi rebels. Instead, they directly accused Tehran.

A U.S. official said all options, including a military response, were on the table, but added that no decisions had been made. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

Iran called the U.S. claims, “maximum lies” and threatened American forces in the region.

The U.S. government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq.

The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government ousted from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014 by the Houthis.

The movement has stepped up drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities this year. The conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said that an investigation into Saturday’s strikes was still going on to determine the launch location.

“The preliminary results show that the weapons are Iranian and we are currently working to determine the location … The terrorist attack did not originate from Yemen as the Houthi militia claimed,” Malki told a press conference in Riyadh.

He said authorities would reveal the location from where drones were launched at a future press briefing.


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